When Virtue Turns to Vice
Updated: Feb 22, 2019
For a long time, as an investor, I would look at my portfolio too much. How much you ask? Like keep a tab open on my Ameritrade for the whole time the market was open every day. Every. Damn. Day.
I'd watch the value go up and down like a meth head with a slinky. I'd be jubilant when it was up, and angry when it was down.
This wasn't my only problem! I was reading investing newsletters religiously! I didn't realize that the vast majority of investing newsletters are filled with bad advice and failure! I just thought I was getting the inside track. The hottest tip, the upcoming calamity, why I should have more REITs, or less REITs, and all that mess. And it made me a mess, too!
This was me trying to be informed. I wanted to have that illusion of control that comes with information. I mean, this was a large chunk of my life savings we were talking about! You don't leave that to chance!
This was a great example of a virtue, wanting to be informed, turning into a vice, and I'll tell you why.
It's simple, but it takes discipline to not screw up, because our natural emotions make us want to panic when the market is down and sell, and then buy when it's up. The more I watched the market and read about the hottest new trend, the more I wanted to (and sometimes did) make bad investing decisions that went against the plan. It was turning me into the typical male, testosterone and emotion fueled investor.
I was an addict, but fortunately I realized it before I did serious damage to my future.
So I set myself a goal. Go one week without looking at my portfolio. It was hard, I made it 3 days. But I realized the newsletters were making me want to check on my index funds, or buy different ones, and every time I read them, it was making me get emotional and lose my discipline.
Once I unsubscribed from the emails, I was able to go a week without my financial crack. It wasn't easy, but I did it. Then I did it again, and it was easier, I was building the discipline and routines I needed.
Sometimes I still need to get financial information, like if I'm doing research for blog posts, or helping with the Millionaire Teacher Club I started at my school. When I do that, I try to not use my Ameritrade platform, but something like Yahoo Finance that doesn't show my portfolio.
The other big problem is the simplicity of my life. I'm a teacher and a musician, but I get home about 4:00 or so every day and if I'm not doing music, I have my time mostly to myself. I don't have kids, I don't have pets, my girlfriend is teaching in China. In other words, I have A Lot of free time.
That was great for writing blog posts, but it also made it suuuuuuuuuper easy to get on my portfolio and obsess about the market and my accounts. I realized I needed another thing to distract myself.
And right here is where my second virtue, learning how to be disciplined with my investing, turned into another vice.
I used to read cracked.com every day, and one day they had a special offer for half off the video game "Civilization 6". Now I used to enjoy that franchise about 10 years ago, but I hadn't played that, or any non phone based video game in almost a decade. So I thought, "hmm, I used to like that game, I bet I could distract myself with it and not be tempted by my portfolio."
And boy howdy did that work!
Soon enough I was conquering the world and sending colonists to Mars, finances forgotten. But, you may not know this, it's pretty groundbreaking, I'll let you into a secret.
VIDEO GAMES ARE ADDICTIVE!
Soon enough, I was playing so much it not only kept me disciplined, but it took away the time I was writing blog posts, reading books, or pretty much anything else. And so, here we are today. I went from posting twice a week or more, to once a week, to the last three weeks where I haven't posted at all!
Sure, I called it writer's block, came up with other excuses, but really it was just the game. And my lack of discipline. And my addictive personality.
But on the flip side I haven't checked my portfolio in like six weeks. I've heard rumors about the correction in January, and another about Trump and tariffs, but it hasn't phased me. I haven't panicked. I'm going to check in about ten days again when it's time to do my quarterly net worth check up, but I can safely say that, for now, my desire to check my portfolio is pretty much gone. It is no longer a raging monster, now it'd the equivalent of a tan, 2005 Toyota Camry. Boring and easy to ignore.
I still haven't beaten the raging video game addiction though...
If you have suggestions on how to fix my life, please leave them below in the comments! And as always, subscribe subscribe subscribe!
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